Railway gives hope trash will be cleaned up — and a warning to trespassers

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

Sometimes trying to make things better doesn't come easy. Ask Charles King.

Looking to get a portion of railroad tracks cleaned up near his home on Gay Avenue in York City, King said he was threatened with a citation last week for dumping — the very thing he's trying to stop.

"I'm trying to get the railroad cleaned up," King said, "and York City Police said that the railroad was citing me for scattering rubbish."

King said apparently the city came down on the railroad, and because his picture and name were in the paper in a story about the dumping problem, the railroad tried to come after him. King said he told the officer that he was trying to get the railroad tracks cleaned up.

"I just want it to look better," King said he told the officer. "If the railroad don't want to do it, I guess we have to step up."

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King said he'd talked to someone from the railway company the same day about beer cans strewn in the area, and King had a neighbor pick them up. The railway official probably assumed he'd thrown the 50 or so beer cans in the area, he said.

Railroad officials, however, are not fond of anyone trespassing on their property.

"Beyond cleanup, York Railway is working to prevent the issue from occurring again," said Tom Ciuba, a spokesman for Genessee & Wyoming Railroad Services. "We share area residents’ concerns and frustrations about the illegal trespassing and dumping, which poses a safety hazard to our employees, trespassers and the community."

As of Thursday, King had not been issued any citations for his cleanup efforts.

Trash is seen along railroad tracks on Gay Avenue in York City on Friday, April 28, 2022.  Charles King said he and his neighbors have paid to clean up their side of the tracks and remove trees. Daniella Heminghaus photo

Ciuba offered some hope that York Railway Co., a Genessee subsidiary that maintains that stretch of rail line, would soon clean up the garbage along its tracks.

"York Railway shares the concern of local citizens regarding trash along our right of way, especially as dumping on or around railroad track can pose a safety risk for our crews," Ciuba said. "In fact, we undertook a significant cleanup effort in this same area just last year with both our employees and area residents in mind."

The railway is in the process of organizing another safe cleanup of the line, he said, but he could not provide a timeline for when that would happen.

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Ciuba said it's dangerous for residents to clean up in rail areas because of the unpredictability of when trains may come through.

"Because railroads are private property and freight trains can move at any time of day from any direction, people can’t come on or near our tracks to conduct their own cleanup," he said.

King said he really doesn't want to get into an argument with the railway company about something they should already be doing.

"We don't need no punching match out here," King said. "We just need something done."

Charles King, who is fed up with the garbage being dumped along the railroad tracks near his Gay Avenue home may get some help from the railway company that maintains the track there. Daniella Heminghaus photo

King has grown tired of heavy items and regular household trash being dumped on the other side of the tracks from his house. Mattresses, box springs, old furniture and bags of trash are among things dumped in the area by the truckful.

He said he and his brother caught someone recently trying to dump an old bed frame in the area. After they confronted the man, who said he was from Baltimore, the man loaded the bed frame back into his SUV and drove away.

King has paid out of pocket to have trash picked up near his home. He would like stuff being dumped on the other side of the tracks picked up as well but doesn't believe he should foot the bill.

In the past he has also paid to have overgrowth along a guardrail cleaned up, but he was told by the railroad official that he couldn't do so anymore because the land was railroad property.

Trash is seen along railroad tracks on Gay Avenue in York City on Friday, April 28, 2022.  Charles King said he and his neighbors have paid to clean up their side of the tracks and remove trees. Daniella Heminghaus photo

King said cutting back the overgrowth is needed to keep those who dump in the area from being hidden from view.

"It's the perfect spot to do it because of all the overgrowth," King said. "Nobody can see them do it."

— Reach Anthony Maenza at amaenza@yorkdispatch.com or @atmaenza on Twitter.